Dr. Karen Smith, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Health Officer, is advising health care providers to ‘Think measles’ when encountering patients showing the symptoms of rash and fever as the contagious viral disease is ever present around the world and can be imported into the state via international travel.
“Measles continues to circulate in much of the world outside of North and South America, but with Californians returning from trips abroad and tourists from other countries visiting California, we are reminding health care providers to keep measles in mind when they see patients with symptoms of the disease,” Dr. Smith said. “Although the measles outbreak associated with Disneyland was over in April, it is important at the start of the new academic year to consider measles in patients who present signs of fever and rash, especially if they have had international travel in the prior three weeks.”
CDPH urges health care providers to consider measles in patients of any age who have a fever and a rash. Measles begins with a fever that lasts for a couple of days accompanied by cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. The rash may appear 3-7 days after symptoms begin. The rash typically appears first on the face, along the hairline, and behind the ears and then affects the rest of the body.
If measles is a possibility, CDPH urges health care providers to contact their local health departments immediately for assistance.
This recommendation comes on the heels of a measles diagnosis in a college student in Berkeley who had recently travelled internationally. To date, 125 measles cases with onset in 2015 have been reported throughout the state; most were associated with the Disneyland outbreak.
California counties that have reported measles cases in 2015 include: Alameda (5); Contra Costa (1); Long Beach (2); Los Angeles (28); Marin (2); Merced (1); Orange (33); Pasadena (3); Riverside (7); San Bernardino (11); San Diego (12); San Mateo (4); Santa Clara (3); Solano (1); Ventura (10); Yolo (1) and the City of Berkeley (1).
Immunization with MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine protects against measles while abroad and back at home. Unvaccinated Californians who are traveling outside of North or South America should receive the MMR vaccine before they go. Infants who are traveling abroad can be vaccinated with an early dose as young as six months of age (though they should also have the two standard doses of the MMR at 12-15 months and at 4-6 years of age).